We believe that the Sabbath was instituted in Eden before sin entered, that
it was honored of God, set apart by divine appointment, and given to mankind as
the perpetual memorial of a finished creation. It was based upon the fact that
God Himself had rested from His work of creation, had blessed His Sabbath, or
rest day, and had sanctified it, or set it apart for man (Gen. 2:1-3; Mark
2:27). We believe, further, that it was none other than the Son of God Himself,
the second person of the eternal Godhead, who was the Creator of Genesis 1:13,
and who therefore appointed the original Sabbath (John 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col.
1:16, 17; Heb. 11:1, 2).
While the Sabbath is enshrined in the very heart of the commandments of God, it
must be remembered that Jesus said, "The Son of man is Lord also of the
sabbath" (Mark 2:28). In other words, He is its author and its maker. He
is its protector. The Sabbath is the "sabbath of the Lord [Jehovah] thy
God" (Ex. 20:10).
Hence Christ is its Lord; the Sabbath belongs to Him. It is His day; it
is the Lord's day. Inasmuch as we, His blood-bought children, belong to Him and
live in Him, and He lives in us (Gal. 2:20), how natural that Sabbath
observance, among other expressions of love and loyalty to Him, should be
revealed in our lives.
We understand that the Sabbath was not initially given simply to provide rest
from physical exhaustion, but was for man's highest goodspiritually,
intellectually, and physically. It was primarily for fellowship with God,
inasmuch as it is the presence of God that gives rest and makes holy. But after
man's fall, it also provided needful physical rest as well.
Many centuries later, the weekly seventh-day Sabbath was reaffirmed at Sinai
(Ex. 20:8-11; 31:16, 17). God gave His chosen people an organized system of
worship. This Sabbath precept was placed in the midst of the moral law, or Ten
Commandments, which were given by God to man. The law enunciated principles
that are eternal and that, in their application to this earth, are based upon
the abiding relationships of man to God and man to man. The Sabbath thus
reminds man of Christ's work as Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, and now,
because of sin, as Redeemer.
In addition, certain yearly festivals, or ceremonial sabbaths, falling on
specified days of the month and connected with the Mosaic sacrificial services,
were introduced. These prefigured the gospel provision of salvation through the
coming "Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John
1:29). But the Decalogue, sealed with the lip and finger of God,
was lifted above all Jewish rites and ceremonies. This is evident from the fact
that the Sabbath was established before man sinned, and therefore before he had
any need of a Redeemer. It was not a part of the ceremonial regulations
occasioned by the entrance of sin, and which were annulled by the death of
Christ (Col. 2:17). Thus the. Ten Commandments and the gospel in figure, in
inseparable union, were affirmed to Israel of old.
So the Sabbath, established in Eden, was kept by patriarch, prophet, and people
of God throughout the centuries of pagan darkness. And when Christ came, at His
incarnation, He likewise observed the seventh day as the Sabbath (Mark 6:1, 2;
Luke 4:16, 31), and was "Lord also of the sabbath" (Mark 2:28)—the
Creator who had established the original seventh-day Sabbath of creation week.
He also fulfilled, in antitypical reality, the Old Testament types of
redemption—dying as the "Lamb of God," a vicarious, completely
efficacious, and atoning death for man, on the specified fourteenth (or
Passover) day of the first month. The Saviour died, we believe, on the sixth
day of the week. Then, after remaining in the tomb over the seventh-day
Sabbath, Christ rose triumphant over death on the first day of the week. The
typical ceremonial system ceased when Christ completed His great redemptive
act. But the Decalogue and the gospel-in-actuality remained as the Christian's
continuing guide, one setting forth the standard, and the other providing the
enabling power for its observance.
The texts in the New Testament specifically mentioning the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:1, 2, 9; Luke 24:1; John
20:1, 19; Acts 20:7, 8; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2) cannot rightly be construed as
enjoining the observance of Sunday, or as transferring the Sabbath from the
seventh day to the first day.
The seventh-day Sabbath continued to be kept by Christ's followers for several
centuries. But along with the Sabbath there was a growing observance of what
was known as the festival of the resurrection, celebrated on the first day.
This was observed at least from the middle of the second century (see Socrates,
Ecclesiastical History, V. 22). And the first recorded observance was at Rome
(Justin Martyr, First Apology, ch. 67).
Thus these two observances—the Sabbath and the "festival of the
resurrection"—came, in time, to parallel each other. In the fourth
century the apostatizing church—first, at the Council of Laodicea (in canon
29)*—anathematized those who continued to "Judaize," or rest on the
seventh day of the week, and decreed the observance of the first day in its
stead (Hefele, History of the Councils of the Church, vol. 2, p. 316). Thus
ecclesiastical custom was first enforced by church council action.
Seventh-day Adventists believe that this very change was predicted in Bible
prophecy, in Daniel 7:25. The church in Rome led out in bringing about the
change to Sunday. Thenceforth Sunday was observed by most Christians, before,
during, and following the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. The
Sabbath, however, still continued to be observed by some in various parts of
Europe and elsewhere.
*The canons of the provincial Council of Laodicea were incorporated into the
law of the church by action of the general Council of Chalcedon, 451, and
thus became obligatory for all churches.
The revival of seventh-day Sabbath observance was largely brought about in the
seventeenth century by the Seventh Day Baptist movement in Britain and on the
Continent. Seventh-day Adventists began the promulgation of the Sabbath truth
about 1845-46 in America.
We believe that the restoration of the Sabbath is indicated in the Bible
prophecy of Revelation 14:9-12. Sincerely believing this, we regard the
observance of the Sabbath as a test of our loyalty to Christ as Creator and
Seventh-day Adventists do not rely upon their Sabbathkeeping as a means of
salvation or of winning merit before God. We are saved by grace alone. Hence
our Sabbath observance, as also our loyalty to every other command of God, is
an expression of our love for our Creator and Redeemer.